Brothers who hurt us

How do we relate with those who have hurt us? Most focus on the person and the offence. What happens when we bring in Jesus’ perspective.

Paul wrote a letter to Philemon, whose slave had run away to Paul and through Paul had come to faith. He sends the slave back with an appeal to Philemon for mercy. I have adjusted the letter to make it from Jesus to you, the hurt one, on behalf of the one who has caused you grief. Try reading it, inserting your own name, and the name of the one who caused grief –

To (Your name here),

Grace and peace to you.

I am always thankful when I remember you … accordingly, even though I could command you, for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you. I appeal to you for my child (The name of one causing grief), whose father I have become. I am sending him to you, sending my very heart.  … I prefer to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

So, if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Jesus, write this with my own hand: I will repay it – to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, dear one, I want some benefit from you! Refresh my heart through my power.       

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.



Easter Love

Years ago I realised that in a perfect world we would never have been able to grasp, 

“how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

Ephesians 3:18

Love is seen in the personal cost it is willing to pay to help someone in need. If our whole lives, and the lives of those around us were a paradise of bliss, how could love be demonstrated?

Then I came to-

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial  because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life  that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Without trials through which we have the opportunity to persevere, we could not know how wide and long and high and deep is our love for him. We can profess love for Jesus, but until it is proven by sacrificial love for his people here around us, the words are not proven.

Our love has limits and most days life’s circumstances demonstrate them. On the cross Jesus demonstrated that his love has none!

Love revealed

What does this mean …

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

2 Corinthians 4:10-11

Reading Isaiah 53 brings helpful context.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him … he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:2-3

Jesus’ love caused offence to the religiously self-righteous. Our self-righteous secular culture takes offence at any who live out faith ahead of its values. Protection is valued so highly that love is viewed suspiciously; choice is idolised, elevating selfishness. Jesus’ way is despised.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.

Isaiah 53:4-5

The way of Jesus may be despised, but his love must be expressed. For many of his people it is expressed by dealing with the emotional fall out of these cultural values. As we carry these infirmities, we are indeed carrying around in our body the death of Jesus. His love is revealed in a myriad of acts of kindness.

What do I trust in?

When things are going wrong, we go to our source of strength –

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there?

[Psalm 121:1]

Everyone has their mountains from which they expect help. For some it is money, for others, alliances with powerful people, for others it is in their personality.

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!

[Psalm 121:2]

It takes faith to let go of these mountains and depend on our creator. When we are desperate we are tempted towards proven solutions. We have to learn to take God at his word when he says –

He will not let you stumble;

[Psalm 121:3]

Though he might leave us in trouble for longer than we are comfortable, if we hold on to him, he will come through.

the one who watches over you will not slumber.

[Psalm 121:4]

When we have been hard pressed for a time, we are tempted to think God has taken his eye off our situation. How can he care if he sees without acting?

The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade … The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.

[Psalm 121:5-7]

Jesus promised, “I am with you always.” What an encouragement. If we could see the harm he keeps from us, we would be amazed. As it is, we trust him. This is faith. Only as our faith is stretched do we gain resilience to stop depending on our mountains.

Power and Understanding

What would you do with all power and understanding?

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; …

Psalm 147:5

The extent of God’s power is seen through the creation of all things. We see the breadth of it in the galaxies, we see the depth in the sub-atomic particles.

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

Psalm 147:4

When God names, he does so with understanding and care. The name is not merely a label. When he gives us a new name, it tells of whom he sees us to be. So, he names the billions of stars with care, describing each one’s specialness.

his understanding has no limit.

Psalm 147:5

Creation also shows his understanding. Knowing all things, he can predict and control events. Our culture is concerned about things on the edge of its understanding such as global warming, political turmoil and the like. The Lord who understands the impact of every CO2 particle and every political decision is not concerned. He could bring everything into balance, if we would humble ourselves to ask.

The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Psalm 147:6

Many use power or understanding to engineer or force their will. This however, is wickedness. God’s use of power elevates humility. So, Jesus, having all power, chose humility when he allowed himself to be executed. Only when it was too late did the wicked discover what he had understood, that he was conquering the power of death!

The end of pleasure?

Our western culture could be like this…

Listen to this, you pleasure-loving kingdom, living at ease and feeling secure. You say, ‘I am the only one, and there is no other. [Isaiah 47:8NLT]

Where self-focused complacency develops, a culture becomes conceited and wants everyone to emulate it.

“Come down, virgin daughter of Babylon, and sit in the dust.” [Isaiah 47:1NLT]

Law is symbolised by Egypt. Pleasure seeking is symbolised by Babylon, whose end is not great.

You will be naked and burdened with shame. [Isaiah 47:3NLT]

Ultimately, the Lord lifts the lid and exposes what is within. Arrogance and abuse born of conceit will be exposed.

… your ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ have led you astray, and you said, ‘I am the only one…’ [Isaiah 47:10NLT]

A culture that grows powerful through knowledge uses that power to exercise its will and elevate itself. It begins to act as if it were a god.

A catastrophe will strike you suddenly, one for which you are not prepared. [Isaiah 47:11NLT]

The Lord shakes everything to prove its permanence. That which is not built on the foundation of Christ will eventually fall.

Where are all your … stargazers who make predictions ..? Let them stand up and save you from what the future holds. But they are like straw burning in a fire. [Isaiah 47:13-14NLT]

The experts make predictions as if they had divine insight. Ultimately, they will be proven fools and those who trust in them will share their fate.
So, what do I build my life on?

Resisting wickedness

When the wicked win the temptation is to use their methods. In succumbing we become wicked. What should we do?

Do not fret because of those who are evil …; for like … green plants they will soon die away. [Psalm 37:1-2]

When the wicked win, anxiety drives towards wickedness. We need Jesus’ perspective. The wicked will not ultimately win and there is a way to Jesus-

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. [Psalm 37:3]

The temptation to win by becoming wicked drives us from the safe place Jesus would have us live in. This dwelling place exists only through trust.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. [Psalm 37:4]

We gain spiritual strength as we choose to delight in Jesus and discover the fulfilment of desires long supressed under the boasts of the wicked.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. [Psalm 37:5-6]

When we entrust our future to God, he takes us down paths that vindicate us.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, … Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. [Psalm 37:7-8]

When we are quiet despite the wicked winning, we know we are, trusting, delighting and committing our way to Jesus.

Embrace Trials

I have a bad habit when in difficulty of giving myself permission to behave badly. Paul underwent far greater difficulties. His account of ship wrecks, beatings, facing wild animals and the like make anything I face seem trivial.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. [2 Corinthians 4:8-9NIV]

Yet Paul, instead of using them to excuse bad behaviour saw them as an opportunity to discover the amazing extent of God’s grace.

we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. [2 Corinthians 4:7NIV]

Paul recognises he is not up to the trials, but he does not give up and make everyone else suffer. He prays and looks forward to how God will carry him through.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, [2 Corinthians 4:10NIV]

Paul understood these trials as a participation in the death of Christ. As we are joined with Jesus in his suffering, we are also joined with him in God’s power.

so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

Jesus does not give immunity from trials but hope in himself. Can we seek him and faithfully endure as we wait for him to intervene? At the far end, looking back, we will realise that we were not up to it, but that he brought us through.

Refuge in the tumult

I have been taught that God’s refuge is where I live if I am making godly decisions. Psalm 91 takes another approach.

If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge’ and make the most-high your dwelling,

If I say, ‘The Lord is my refuge’, I am choosing not to make anything else my refuge. There are many choices available- money, people of power, the law, … These refuges beckon us, and in danger, we are driven to them.
If I make the most-high my dwelling, then I live in Jesus’ presence, he speaks to my heart and gives me peace.
Bringing these together, I see the false choices would be a betrayal of the one who loved me and gave himself for me. If I have experienced dwelling with Jesus, then his peace keeps fear from driving me from his refuge.
The psalm goes on,

no harm will come near you, no disaster will come near your tent,

‘No harm’ is not ‘no threat’, ‘near your tent’ is not ‘in your land’. The appearance will be challenging but we have God’s promise, and rest in that assurance.

for he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:9-11

We might appear naïve in this place of refuge, but the Lord is active; He commands his angels to intervene. We cannot see a rescue, but then we can’t see angels.
In the political turmoil help me, Lord, to take refuge and dwell in you!

RISK Rely In Spite of Knowledge

Learning to rely on God involves him taking us to the end of our selves.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; [Psalm 86:11]

When what we see ahead is beyond our resources can our faith, love and hope stretch to meet his faithfulness?

Faith, because I will need to believe in the way he reveals over what I can see.
Love, because his way of love is sacrificial and what I see ahead will take more than I have.
Hope, because I will only rely on him as I know him and the relationship will be stretched.

The second half of the verse stretches us in another direction,

give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

When a threat is presented, it will bring to light what I take most seriously; what I fear. I can see it through the lenses of-

Love- Do I love God more than my own skin?
Hope- Do I know my God, who could deliver rescue out of nowhere, well enough to believe that he has my best interest in hand?
Faith- Do I take seriously the Lord’s commitment to our relationship and so fear the consequences of my failure more than I fear the threat?